I’ve had a love affair with Korean food ever since I tried it for the first time while living in Beijing in the late 90s. Beijing has a sizable ethnically Korean population, having settled there a long time ago. There are neighborhoods that have clusters of very good Korean restaurants. I was fortunate enough to live in one such neighborhood. A Chinese colleague introduced me to one of these restaurants, and before long, I was a regular in all of them. I was mesmerized by the number of small plates, or banchan, brought to me before the main plates arrived. I relished the assortment of spicy fermented vegetables, fish cakes, and delicately prepared seaweed. They were all delectable and suited my palate. My favorite Korean dishes were the soups and stews. I honestly think that Koreans make the best soups in the world, from spicy kimchi jigae (kimchi stew), to galbi tang (short rib soup), to cold buckwheat noodle soups…..they are all delicious and super healthy. Of course, I also enjoyed the spicy squid, meng bean pancakes with scallions, japchae noodles, and Korean bbq. As I write this, my mouth is salivating at the thought! I was in Asia for seven years, but I regret that I never spent more than a day’s layover in South Korea. Planning a foodie trip to Seoul is in the works, and I can’t wait!
This probably isn’t the most authentically Korean dish, but it combines two foods that I absolutely love – kimchi and gochujang, spiciness and sourness. So, this is my version of Korean home cooking. It was a hit the first time I made it, so I’ve made it for my family a handful of times now. You can use spicy or mild kimchi for this recipe. I used both because that’s what I had on hand. You can now buy both kimchi and gochujang in regular well-stocked supermarkets.
If you can find pre-sliced pork, that’s great. I couldn’t find any in my local market, so I purchased a tenderloin and popped it in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing. That made slicing much easier. I used both scallions and onions in this recipe. I like to sauté the scallions with the garlic and ginger (the heavenly trio) to flavor the sauce and penetrate the whole dish. I also like to add the onions towards the end to add to more texture and flavor.
This recipe serves about 4 people. Once all the pork is sliced and the veggies are chopped, the dish is ready to serve in about 15 minutes. Serve with rice.
Here is what you’ll need:
- 1.5 lbs. pork tenderloin
- 1/3 cup gochujang sauce
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 3 tbsp. canola oil or other neutral oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 inch knob ginger, finely chopped
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 20 oz. cabbage kimchi (spicy or mild), roughly chopped with juices saved
- 3 tbsp. mirin
- 4 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 small onion, chopped into 1 inch pieces
Here’s how to put it all together:
- Slice the tenderloin lengthwise down the middle and then across into thin slices – about 1/8th of an inch thick. It’s easier to slice when it’s slightly frozen. I freeze the tenderloin for about 30 minutes before slicing. In a large bowl, place the sliced pork with the gochujang and sesame oil and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a wok, large frying pan, or braiser over high heat. Add the canola oil and stir-fry the pork for about 7 minutes, or until the pink is completely gone. Empty the pork into a large bowl and set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium-high, and add the garlic, ginger and scallions. Stir-fry for about 1 minute, and add the kimchi with its juices, mirin, soy sauce and sugar. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Add the pork back in and the onions. Stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes. Taste to know if salt is needed, but the soy sauce should salt the dish adequately.